Nugent+Matteson Dance

December 6, 2007

Nugent+Matteson Dance

Danspace Project, NYC

December 6–8, 2007

Reviewed by Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Jennifer Nugent and Paul Matteson premiered “Pieced Apart,” a surprisingly uneven program. Some say men are from Mars, women from Venus. This well-regarded couple now seemed to hail from opposite planets, demonstrating very different levels of ability, focus, and resolve.

    In Terry Creach’s duet, Saints Smother Swans (above), which opened the evening, Nugent’s dancing eclipsed Matteson’s at every turn. Nugent is an odd duckling but one in steely, regal command of weight, momentum, and expression of time. When she directs the placement of her body in that off-centered way that the duo relishes, one sees the purposeful and bold architecture of dance held just so or moved with exactingly calibrated timing. Nugent would be a star in any art; we are fortunate that dance is her medium.

    It was hard to find similar coherence and definition in Matteson’s dancing. Where was the lovely, intuitive partner of seasons past? Perhaps Creach’s choreography was more pitched towards Nugent, but Matteson’s own choreographic contributions did not reassure.

    In fact, his solo, BLOCK IDOL, seemed so nakedly painful that I wanted to avert my eyes. Matteson stacked bright blue blocks into a neat tower of a partner, one just a head shorter than his height. Under self-imposed duress—and with awkwardness that some audience members found funny—he folded his limbs around this tower, careful not to touch it, while stripping off socks, wristwatch and other items. Rearranging the blocks, he attempted to stand atop them, challenging himself to greater heights of instability. His bare feet and legs looked vulnerable; his face reflected insecurity, even humiliation. As if mired in a nasty dream, he stood upon two blocks and stooped to try to pick up his belongings. Suddenly, his gold wedding band fell off and rolled away. This sad figure eventually managed to gather up the ring and everything and slowly slink away.

    Matteson’s Temper Please, a long ensemble work for men and women in androgynous costumes, rambled on, its shapelessness marked only by the tendency of the dancers to fall to the floor or merely pitch their upper bodies forward as if their heads were thrice the size. At one point, a couple of faun-like, prancing men broke up the general milling about of three women and at least brought a change of scenery.

    Nugent’s solo, Little, was big in quality, if a bit longwinded. As Nugent turned towards the audience, moving along a shaft of light, at least one other observer thought of Isadora Duncan. Despite the music’s quiet buzz, whenever she arched her arms, bent her back deeply or fluttered her hands, she willed the air around her body into an inviolable hush.